<
>

Who were the 50th champions in sports other than the NFL?

This year marks the 50th Super Bowl, and though the NFL had championships before then, the Super Bowl is where the game became the big game. It's among the points at which the sport took off.

With that in mind, here's a look back at the golden championship years of hockey, baseball and basketball, and how those semi-centennials tie into the Panthers and Broncos in Santa Clara, California.

Basketball: 1996 NBA Finals, Bulls defeat SuperSonics

The '95-96 Bulls -- yes, those Bulls -- defeated the SuperSonics 4 games to 2 for the NBA title. It was the Bulls’ fourth title in four appearances and Seattle’s third Finals appearance.

Super Bowl 50 connection:

Bid for most wins in a season: The Panthers are looking to become the third team in NFL history to win 18 games in a season. The team that set the precedent for wins in the NBA? None other than these Bulls, who won 72.

MVP, national champ, college trophy: The Bulls had the league MVP in Michael Jordan, so Newton could be his analogue just for being in the discussion.

That’s not where the Newton comparisons end. At North Carolina, Jordan was a national champion in 1981-82 and won the Wooden Award in 1984. Newton won the Heisman Trophy, a football equivalent of the Wooden Award, and the BCS National Championship in 2010.

Baseball: 1953 World Series, Yankees defeat Dodgers

The Yankees defeated the Dodgers 4-2 for their fifth straight World Series victory, their fourth straight over New York teams.

Super Bowl 50 connection:

Hall of Famer on brink of retirement: The 1953 World Series represented the final career games for a Hall of Famer Johnny Mize. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 as a member of the Cardinals. Mize hit .312 with 359 career home runs in 15 major league seasons, but he had just three at-bats in his World Series swan song. Mize won five World Series in his career, all with the Yankees during that streak. Mize is the Peyton Manning figure, the Hall of Famer whose career ended (or might end) near the championship contest.

MVP: On the MVP counterpart front, Roy Campanella won the National League MVP that year, and Yogi Berra finished second in the AL.

College football All-American: One other Super connection? Jackie Robinson, who played on that Dodgers team, was a four-sport athlete at UCLA, earning All-American recognition in football in 1941. Who else was an All-American in football? Newton, in 2010.

Hockey: 1942 Stanley Cup and 1976 Stanley Cup (50th with NHL) Maple Leafs defeat Red Wings and Canadiens defeat Flyers

The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy in North American professional sports. There are two 50th championships to recognize in hockey -- the 1942 Stanley Cup, which was the 50th time the cup was awarded, and the 1976 Stanley Cup, which was the 50th since the NHL took control of it in 1926.

1942: The Maple Leafs defeated the Red Wings 4-3 to become the 50th team etched into the Stanley Cup. They dropped the first three games of the series and then became the only team to win a Stanley Cup championship -- or any major sport championship series -- after being down three games to none.

Super Bowl 50 connection:

Many championship appearances: The Maple Leafs had already won Lord Stanley three times, but they’d also lost it in the Finals seven times. That’s 10 appearances at the time for the Maple Leafs, and the Red Wings had six of their own. Either franchise’s experience relates to the Broncos making their eighth Super Bowl appearance.

Hall of Famer on brink of retirement: The Red Wings squad included Ebbie Goodfellow, a 34-year-old defenseman who was in his 13th year in hockey. He went on to play one more season before hanging up his skates with 324 career points, including 134 goals. In 1963, the Ottawa native was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. We don’t know what Manning’s status will be after Super Bowl 50, but we do know that Canton will be calling his name one day, just as Toronto did Goodfellow’s.

1976: The Canadiens swept the Flyers to win the first of what would be four straight Stanley Cup victories. They were the 50th team to win the Stanley Cup since it became controlled by the NHL in 1926.

Super Bowl 50 connection:

Older franchise and an expansion team: The Flyers were an expansion team -- they’d won the Stanley Cup in each of the two previous seasons, but they’d come into existence eight seasons prior, in 1967-68. The Canadiens, meanwhile, had existed since 1917 and had won the cup 18 times. An Original Six team against an expansion team ... sounds a lot like the expansion Panthers and the more storied Broncos franchise.

MVP: The Flyers’ Bobby Clarke won the Hart Memorial Trophy that year and appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals, akin to Newton, who’s in the MVP race and playing in Super Bowl 50.